History of Witchcraft (part 6)
As we can see, even though the pagan community has been trod
upon, it was never destroyed. The date of Christmas was
purposely fixed on December 25 to push into the background the
great festival of the sun god, and the Epiphany on January 5 to
supplant an Egyptian festival of the same day and the Easter
ceremonies were set to rival the pagan spring festival.
Let’s take a look at a few of the holidays and compare.
On Easter Sunday, everywhere, the children hunt the many colored
Easter eggs, brought by the Easter rabbit. This is the vestige
of a fertility rite, the eggs and the rabbit both symbolizing
fertility. The rabbit was the escort of the Germanic goddess
Ostara who gave her name to the festival by way of the German
The first day of Spring holds much in the way of folklore. It is
also known as the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Eostre’s Day, Alban
Eilir, the Vernal Equinox, or Festival of the Trees. It takes
place between March 19 and 22. It marks the first day of true
spring (verses the balmy weather that may procede it.)
The day and night is equal on this day, thus the name of Equinox.
There is a story in one culture that says that the sun has begun
to win it’s race with the night and that the days get longer as
the sun pulls ahead. (Followed by the fact that the sun begins to
lose the race at Mid-Summer, and loses the race at Mid-Winter
just to start the race again the next day.)
It is a time of beginnings, of action, of planting seeds for
future grains, and of tending gardens. On the first Sunday after
the first full moon following Eostre’s Day (the name from which
the Easter was derived), the Christian religion celebrates it’s
Spring is a time of the Earth’s renewal, a rousing of nature
after the cold sleep of winter. As such, it is an ideal time to
clean your home to welcome the new season.
Spring cleaning is more than physical work. Some cultures see it
as a concentrated effort on their part to rid themselves of
problems and negativity of the past months and tho prepare
themselves for the coming spring and summer.
To do this, they approach the task of cleaning their homes with
positive thoughts. They believe that this frees the homes of the
hard feelings brought about by a harsh winter. Even then, they
have guidlines that they follow such as any scrubbing of stains
or hand rubbing the floors should be done in a “clockwise”
motion. It is their belief that this aids in filling the home
with good energy for growth.
To the Druidic faith, this is a sacred day occuring in the month
of Fearn (meaning, “I am the shining tear of the Sun”). Part of
thier practices are to clean and rededicate outdoor shrines,
beliving that in doing so they honor the spring maiden. This is
a time of fertility of both crops and families. In promoting
crops, they believe that the use of fire and water (the sun and
rain) will reanimate all life on Earth. They decorate hard-
boiled eggs, the symbol of rebirth, to eat during their rites,
and such foods as honey cakes and milk punch can also be found.
The mothers and daughters give dinners for each other and give
cards and gifts as a way of merging with the natural flow of life
and with each other. (The Druids consider this also as Mother’s
In Greek mythology, spring was the time when Persephone returned
from the underworld (where the seed was planted in the barren
winter months) and thus represents the seedlings of the spring.
Demeter, Persephone’s mother represents the fertile earth and the
ripend grain of harvest since it is alleged that she is the one
that created the need to harvest crops when her daughter was
kidnapped and taken to the underworld. It was through an
arrangement that her daughter could return for 1/2 the year that
Demeter allowed the crops to spring forth for that time until she
again went into mourning for her daughter in the fall.
In some cultures, even today, the ones that continue to celebrate
the rites of spring rise on Easter morning to watch the sun
“Dance” as it rises.
The Christian festival commenmorating the resurrection of Christ,
synchronized with the Jewish Pesach, and blended since the
earliest days of Christianity with pagan European rites for the
renewed season. In all countries Easter falls on the Sunday
after the first full moon on or following March 21. It is
preceded by a period of riotous vegetation rites and by a period
of abstinence, Lent (in Spain Cuaresma, Germany Lenz, central
Italy, Quaresima) and by special rites of Holy Week.
Everywhere Easter Sunday is welcomed with rejoicing, singing,
candle processionals, flowers in abundance, and ringing of church
bells. Many pagan customs survive, such as the lighting of new
fires at dawn, among the Maya as well as in Europe, for cure,
renewed life, and protection of the crops.
The first day of May: observed as a spring festival everywhere in
Europe, the United States, and Canada, and as a labor festival in
certain European countries.
Rites such as the ever famous May Pole occur in the town squares
or in the family’s front yard. The gathering of green branches
and flowers on May Eve is the symbolic act of bringing home the
May, i.e. bringing new life, the spring, into the village.
The May Queen (and often King) is choosen from among the young
people, and they go singing from door to door throughout the town
carrying flowers or the May tree, soliciting donations for a
merrymaking in return for the “blessing of May”. This is
symbolic of bestowing and sharing of the new creative power that
is stirring in the world. As the kids go from door to door, the
May Bride often sings to the effect that those who give will get
of nature’s bounty through the year.
In parts of France, some jilted youth will lie in a field on May
Day and pretend to sleep. If any village girl is willing to
marry him, she goes and wakes him with a kiss; the pair then go
to the village inn together and lead the dance which announces
their engagement. The boy is called “the betrothed of May.”
This festival is also known as Beltane, the Celtic May Day. It
officially begins at moonrise on May Day Eve, and marks the
beginning of the third quarter or second half of the ancient
Celtic year. It is celebrated as an early pastoral festival
accompanying the first turning of the herds out to wild pasture.
The rituals were held to promote fertility. The cattle were
driven between the Belfires to protect them from ills. Contact
with the fire was interpreted as symbolic contact with the sun.
The rowan branch is hung over the house fire on May Day to
preserve the fire itself from bewitchment (the house fire being
symbolic of the luck of the house.
In early Celtic times, the druids kindled the Beltane fires with
specific incantations. Later the Christian church took over the
Beltane observances, a service was held in the church, followed
by a procession to the fields or hills, where the priest kindled
In some rituals, a King and Queen May symbolize the male and female
principles of productivity.
We have looked briefly at the similarities of the philosophies
and vocabularies, but is that all that they had in common? Let’s
look at symbologies.